3 New Findings on Life Expectancy

Life expectancy at birth either increased or remained stable for African-American and Hispanic individuals and white men between 2013 and 2014, but it decreased for white women.

Life expectancy at birth either increased or remained stable for African-American and Hispanic individuals and white men between 2013 and 2014, but it decreased for white women.

The CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics recently released a data brief on changes in life expectancy by race, gender, and Hispanic origin. It defined life expectancy as “the average number of years that a hypothetical group of infants would live at each attained age if the group was subject, throughout its lifetime, to the age-specific death rates prevailing for the actual population in a given year.”

The data came from 2013 and 2014 mortality files from the National Vital Statistics System.

Here are 3 interesting, new findings on life expectancy:

1. Life expectancy for all Americans stayed at 78.8 years between 2013 and 2014.

The Hispanic population saw an increase of 0.2 years in life expectancy, from 81.6 to 81.8 years, while African-Americans saw an increase of 0.1 years, from 75.1 to 75.2 years.

However, the non-Hispanic white population’s life expectancy decreased by 0.1 years, from 78.9 to 78.8 years.

2. Life expectancy for men and women remained stable overall.

Across races and origins, men’s life expectancy remained at 76.4 years and women’s stayed at 81.2 years.

There was no change in life expectancy for white men between 2013 and 2014, but African-American and Hispanic men saw increases of 0.2 and 0.1 years, respectively. African-American females had no change in life expectancy, Hispanic women saw an increase of 0.2 years, and white women’s life expectancy declined from 81.2 to 81.1 years.

Study author Elizabeth Arias, PhD, from the Division of Vital Statistics at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, wrote that trends in life expectancy have been positive since estimates were first published. However, the recent decline for white females is notable.

Dr. Arias’ study didn’t examine cause of death, but after some digging into the issue later, she told NPR that she found that suicide, unintentional poisonings (eg, related to drugs and alcohol), and chronic liver disease increased among individuals aged 25 to 54 years. These issues may have affected women more, which could be a factor in their life expectancy decline.

Dr. Arias also told NPR that other causes of death like heart disease, cancer, and stroke declined, though not enough to counteract the apparent increases in drug overdose, suicide, and chronic liver disease.

Not too long ago, the CDC examined data from the National Vital Statistics System and found that fatal overdoses involving opioids were on the rise in the United States.

In 2014, there were more than 47,000 fatal drug overdoses, which was a 6.5% increase from 13.8 per 100,000 individuals in 2013 to 14.7 per 100,000 in 2014.

The CDC also highlighted that those aged 25 to 44 years, those older than 55 years, and white individuals and African-Americans saw the biggest increases in fatal drug overdoses.

3. Life expectancy at age 65 increased for men.

Life expectancy at age 65 years increased by 0.1 years for men, but it remained the same for women.

Hispanic men, in particular, saw the greatest increases in life expectancy, followed by Hispanic women.